International scientists get first-hand look at changes in Kilauea eruption

International scientists get first-hand look at changes in Kilauea eruption

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory have been keeping a watchful eye on the Kahauale`a 2 lava flow, which just a few months ago had the potential to threaten homes in the Eden Roc and Ainaloa Subdivisions in Puna.

Now, that threat is no more.

"That lava flow, which was headed toward Lower Puna, that flow is now dead," said Jeff Sutton, a gas geochemist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. "Effectively this is sort of a re-set in the activity."

That's because there's a new vent that opened June 27 on the northeast flank of Pu`u `O`o crater, which has been erupting since January 1983. And that has robbed the lava supply for the Kahauale`a flow, ending the threat to the homes.

The new vent has also caused a collapse in some of the spatter cones at Pu`u `O`o.

It's all part of the evolution in the long-lasting eruption. Such activity is also part of Kilauea as a classroom for 16 scientists from eleven countries. They've been on the Big Island for a month as part of the International Training Program in Volcano Hazards Monitoring, spearheaded by the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

"While people that are in this training won't become instant experts in any volcano, they will learn the basics and be able to apply those to their home volcano," said Sutton.

Kilauea is the perfect place, an active and accessible volcano, giving the scientists a chance to get hands-on experience to use at their "home volcano." The scientists have been studying everything fro those lava flows to the elevated gas emissions at Pu`u `o`o.

"By studying the chemistry of the gases and the emission rates of those gases, we can speculate about things that are happening beneath the surface," he said.

Ultimately, the scientists are learning how to monitor dangers from a volcano, because even Kilauea has its deadly hazards.

"The more that we understand about volcano processes, the better we will be able to assess the hazards and risks."

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